Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Yes, time to address some lovely jargon terms for training, facilitation, and leading workshops. These two phrases are also frequently used in the workforce development space, or with career coaches and guides. Both hard and soft skills make up your toolkit of skills to be successful on the job and in the training room.

Hard Skills

If you are leading a workshop on topics like implementing digital marketing, how to write a screenplay, creating environmental policy, or the best ways to utilize a new engineering software, you are likely focusing on hard skills.

Hard skills are abilities that are typically teachable, concrete, measurable, and relatively objective. Some might consider hard skills to be tangible or visible as well. Usually, hard skills are capabilities that are learned through an educational program or technical training.

Soft Skills

If you are facilitating a training on effective communication, emotional intelligence, negotiation, or leadership, you’re probably centering your content around soft skills.

Soft skills include attributes like empathy, motivation, time management and creativity. These skills are a bit more challenging to measure and much more subjective than hard skills. As I’m sure you can imagine, cultural norms would also have a great impact on how someone’s soft skills are viewed. While some believe soft skills are based on personality traits (and that sounds a bit final!) these skills can definitely be improved upon!

Having a mastery of soft skills will set you up to succeed in both professional and personal settings.

What It Means To You

In the land of facilitation, soft skills are imperative for success. Effective communication and active listening are two examples of soft skills that you must have when acting as a leader in any kind of situation. Soft skills can be honed through trial and error (and reflection to see what worked), or by practicing them through classes or with friends and family. Once you narrow down what specific skills you need to improve, you can do a quick online search of “improve soft skills” and the name of the specific skill you’re working on to find many informative articles, lists, videos, and book recommendations. Several of my following posts will also include perspectives and suggestions on how to approach expanding different soft skills.

Hard skills are also important for facilitators since you are likely presenting a workshop or leading a training around helping people learn new hard skills for themselves. Personally, I love focusing on facilitating growth around soft skills, but I have enough of a background in a few topics (like Leave No Trace & outdoor stewardship or basic personal finance) that I could pick up an agenda and make it happen pretty easily. Frequently, facilitators are matched up with subject matter specialists in order to create trainings that incorporate the most accurate information and best practices for both hard and soft skills!